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The important role that kidneys play in the body is one that’s often not realized until they stop working correctly. If your child has lost much of their kidney function, their physician may recommend pediatric dialysis to keep your child’s body in balance. Dialysis is a process that does much of the work that a healthy kidney does to filter out the waste and extra fluid in blood.
When your child undergoes dialysis treatment, this will:
- Help to control their blood pressure
- Keep a certain level of chemicals in their blood (such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate)
- Remove waste, salt and extra water from their body
There are basically two types of dialysis: peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis. Both types of dialysis work well. There may be medical reasons why one therapy is better for your child than another. It is not uncommon to start with one type of treatment and then change to another.
Hemodialysis is performed in hospitals, clinics and homes all over the world. In hemodialysis, blood is slowly pumped out of a patient’s body, through an artificial kidney (hemodialyzer), and then is pumped back in. Only about one cup of blood is outside of your child’s body at any one time.
Most dialysis treatments today take 3–5 hours one, two or three times a week. Treatment time usually depends on your child’s size, activity level, diet and how much kidney function they have left.
Peritoneal dialysis cleans blood and removes extra fluids using the body’s own membranes, the peritoneal membrane. The peritoneal membrane is the lining that surrounds the peritoneal abdominal cavity, which contains your stomach, liver, spleen and intestines. In peritoneal dialysis, your child’s blood is cleaned inside their body.
An experienced nurse will train you and your child to perform peritoneal dialysis in the Pediatric Dialysis unit for about a week or two as an outpatient. To perform peritoneal dialysis, a catheter is placed into the peritoneal cavity in your child’s abdomen. The cleansing solution flows in and out of the peritoneal cavity through this catheter.
Continuous cycling peritoneal dialysis is done overnight, with a machine called a cycler. This machine does the exchanges automatically, usually while your child sleeps.
Patients who don’t receive their prescribed dialysis treatments become more ill. It’s very important that your child receives full treatments as prescribed by their doctor. Please call the dialysis facility if you’re unable to keep your child’s appointment. We may be able to reschedule treatment.
Skipping treatments and shortening dialysis time can cause many complications, including:
- Heart complications: Your child could experience cardiac arrhythmias or cardiac arrest due to high potassium levels.
- Fluid overload: Your child can have shortness of breath from all the excess fluid. The excess fluid can go to their lungs, making it hard to breathe.
- Worsening of anemia and bone disease: This occurs due to missed medications from missed dialysis treatments.
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